Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Racing for mental health.

You know...I walked away after writing yesterday feeling...blah.  I couldn't figure out why the words weren't coming to me and why I was just not feeling like my usual excited-to-run-and-write self.  About halfway through my day it dawned on me.  I was feeling uninspired.  I have been feeling uninspired and it makes sense when I look at it.

      Since running the West Rim trail (yes, I'll ramble a bit more about it), it has really set in just how disappointed I am with my time and effort.  I know that I can go faster--much faster--and I want to go back--I need to go back and make it right; if for no other reason than to settle my mind.  I also realized that my running has been rather stagnant.  I have been feeling a bit like a hamster on a wheel; the same commute, the same day repeating at work, the same run in the morning, the same textbook night in and out. Yes, I realize that's how studying works and that there are many places to run around near where I live, but between working, commuting, and filling all the other waking hours with studying, gyming, and running, it doesn't leave too much time for exploring--hence that oh-so-stagnant feeling of blah.

    I let my running fall into the same routine as work, so it began to feel like work.  Running never feels like work--it's what has always gotten me away from work! I also realized that I haven't raced since last October.  Well, hot damn, that's longer than I thought.  I put so much thinking into the 50 miler and the West Rim that I never once looked around at smaller check-in races.

    I think races qualify as mental health.  I don't mean the reward of winning, or even placing for that matter.  But the simple notion of being surrounded by the craziness that is trail running and the people that love it makes for a wonderful experience.  I started to forget what that felt like, and after seeing some race photos from this year's Uberendurance Sports Dirty German, I forgot how damn much I missed racing.  Not so much that race maybe, but being out exploring new trails, meeting new people, and learning new lessons on the trail.

   I feel a renewed sense of excitement about the upcoming 50 miler and the rest of the season.  I just need to remind myself to add in some of the shorter mental health races and enjoy!!

Run on my friends...and just keep smiling.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Life moves pretty fast....if you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

It has been a little while...the last few weeks have just flown by with little sign of stopping!  I got a few more photos from the West Rim Trail adventure, courtesy of Vince Camiolo.  They are amazing and I feel so badass when I flip through them.  I absolutely cannot wait to get back up there!!  But, first thing is first--get through the 50 mile race.  June 8th is fast approaching and that means two things: my exam will be over and I will attempting my longest race to date.  I'm a bit nervous for both.

Fueling up at the start
      Recently, the race director made an announcement about a little bit of a change in elevation.  It was originally posted to be around 6,500 ft of gain.  A runner out checking out the course found that one loop had about 5,500, so we will be looking at more like 11,000 ft gain for the 50 miles (this was the original elevation profile).  Hot damn....get ready for some hiking!!  I'm still excited, but am really trying to concentrate on the idea of just finishing and getting all number goals out of my head.  I'll secretly let them roll around until I hopefully hit the finish line. * update, as of this morning the course has been changed yet again...the elevation is now 10,500 with a 15 hour cutoff.  We'll see if this changes again in the next week!!

    Between working full time, studying, and getting in training/shadow hours at the gym, I haven't been putting in as many miles as I had hoped since the WRT; averaging about 40-45 a week.  I wish I had done more hill repeats, but it's a bit late now! My goal it to get a ton of sleep leading up to the race and get as much studying in as possible.  I need to kick this exam's ass...I am so ready for change!!  I am also shopping around for a new GPS watch.  I dig the Timex, but can't upload anything and would like to get elevation.  My Garmin seems to only like road running anymore and loses the signal on trail like it's going out of style.  Ultrarunner problems....

   Anyway, back to the daily grind and off to work.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Completing the West Rim Trail- women's unsupported speed record.

It's done.  As with anything else, I'd love to have done a million different things a million different ways, but in the end I finished.  I completed the West Rim Trail from south to north in 6 hours 30 minutes.  My Garmin clocked the total distance at 29.7 miles, while my Timex Marathon clocked at 31.5.  As I have found no other record for running this trail, it seems that it is indeed the current female unsupported record.
Southern Termius-Blackwell PA (photo credit to Vince Camiolo)
First thing is first...I should have looked at the map a bit more carefully before heading out.  I had never been on the trail before and lost a good bit of time to double checking my route and pulling out the map to verify.  When reviewing the Garmin upload, I found I lost more than 20 minutes to this.

Second-I was quite conservative with the hills.  I kept thinking of my upcoming 50 mile race and opting to hike instead.  I lost quite a bit of time in hiking rather than running.

Third-I stupidly made the choice to keep running and not refill my bottles at the pump halfway through.  I had two bottles at the 15 mile point and figured that was enough.  Dumb.  Again, going back to the first point, I hadn't looked at a map and didn't know exactly what the trail ahead would look like.  I ran out around mile 28.

Fourth- I need to slap myself in the face every time I decide to wait 45 minutes to eat instead of every 30..and then turn the 45 into an hour.  I deserve the leg cramping.  It certainly counts as a learning experience.

Fifth- Holy shit, this trail is awesome!  Running alongside the steep cliff all day was amazing.  The view never failed to amaze.

The Pine Creek Gorge
I will, without a single doubt in my mind, be back to better my time.  I will do the trail unsupported again for sure.  But here is the rundown.

5/1/2013 8:25am  I began running from the southern terminus of the West Rim Trail in Blackwell, PA.  The elevation had me at a hike by mile 2; again, I went conservatively knowing I had an upcoming race, as well as not knowing the whole trail.  I was running very comfortably under 10 minute miles and hiking the hills.  The views were utterly beautiful and we could not have had a better day.  I was feeling strong past the 8 mile mark and looking ahead with excitement.

To start, temps were in the mid 50's and slowly climbed throughout the morning. By around 11, they were approaching 70.  Since there wasn't a ton of tree cover yet, there was a lot of direct sun so it was very hot.  I remember hearing my heart beating in my ears very loudly.  I was beginning to struggle a bit around mile 12, and was excited to hit the halfway mark to refill bottles and see some more views.  

I came in to mile 15 at about 3 hours 6 minutes and was feeling strong.  Strong enough that I just kept right on through and didn't look around for the pump to refill.  I was running well and thought if I kept it up I could get into the finish under 6 hours, so I went for it.  I was focused on a time at this point and it got the better of me.  So conscious of the other race and not blowing up earlier, I let my excitement take over and it turned into a mistake.  Not terrible, but one I ended up losing time for.

I continued through with my pace all over the place.  I ran well where I could, cruising the flats, still under 10 minute mile pace, and just seemed to lose it on the hikes.  The uphills were long and arduous and seemed to go on forever.  In retrospect, I should have run them over hiking, but hindsight is always 20/20, now isn't it. I had my first cramp at around mile 20, but was able to run through it and keep moving. 

I came out of the trail at mile 22 and saw Erik sitting on a downed tree.  He had gone out really hard and blew up and cramped at 20, hobbled to 22, and was getting picked up.  I shot down into the woods and back to the single track feeling good to be out of the sun for a bit.  It didn't last long.  I started cramping again after stepping over a large downed tree and hiked for a while. Mentally, this was a tough thing to do; there is no aid station to enjoy or use as a mile goal, no finish line food...just you and your legs plugging along.  It made me realize more than ever just how much I love trail running, and the challenges of long distance.

The struggling face...cramps and hiking.

From mile 22 to 25 I was just trudging along hoping to be done.  I had cramps in my inner thighs switching from one leg to the other, and I was trying to use my hand helds for momentum while hiking.  Looking at my watch and seeing the miles tick closer to the end, I was able to pick my pace up for the last few miles and pop out of the woods with Erik and Vince just hopping out of the car for a photo finish.  I completed the West Rim Trail in an unsupported effort.  The official measured trail says 30.5, Strava says 29.6, and Timex says 31.5.  Whichever way it is, it's done.  I will be back soon to do it all again.
Finished. 6:30:00

I opted to wear my Ultimate Direction race vest and carry two hand held bottles.  I used VFuel peach cobbler gels. I wore both my Garmin 110 and my Timex Marathon GPS watches.  Through my training, I noticed that my Garmin is consistently under on mileage compared to the Timex, as well as the Nike watches.  I wish the Timex data was up-loadable; I may look in to the new run trainer that they just put out.  I will update a gear list and some reviews soon.

I'm glad to have it official, but as much as I made the decision to hold back, I can't help but be disappointed with my time.  I can't wait to go back and beat it!!